Operation Springboard
on Zeb Mountain

March 14, 2008… the day you’ll
be telling your grandkids about


Knoxville News Sentinel 10 March 2008

The Clinton Courier News 9 March 2009

Knoxville News Sentinel 15 March 2008

The Clinton Courier News 19 March 2008

The UT Daily Beacon 14 April 2008


Coal Creek
Watershed Foundation
joins effort to
restore the
American Chestnut

Restoring the
American Chestnut
on Mined Land
in the Appalachians

Heartland Series Video

Watch them grow!!

Zeb Mountain Mine in Tennessee

Tip Top Mine in Kentucky



IN 2013

The newspaper articles linked above tell the reasons why 60 volunteers braved the cold wind and rain to scramble across loose, rocky ground to plant hundreds of American chestnut seeds on mine land prepared by the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA).  The purpose of this web page is to document the planting procedures we used to streamline future efforts when we plant blight-resistant American chestnut hybrids on mine land prepared by the FRA method.

Ten planting methods were analyzed with and without Pro-mix (peat based planting medium), sterilized and unsterilized native soil, hydrated Terra-sorb (gel that absorbs water during wet weather and releases water during dry weather), 18-inch tall Blue-X tree shelter tubes attached to wooden stakes, 20-10-5 fertilizer pellets, and weed mats. 

Here’s the drill for Treatment No. 3 that consisted of ½ cup of Pro-mix, ½ cup of sterilized native soil, 12 oz. of hydrated Terra sorb gel, two 20-10-5 fertilizer pellets, one 18-inch tall tree shelter tube attached to a wooden stake with zip-ties, and a pile of native rocks around the base of the tree shelter tube.

Click on image to enlarge

STEP 1A:   Mixing a batch of Pro-mix and sterilized native soil…”OK, one of you young UT studs run down to the pond and fetch us some water to mix with the Terra-sorb gel”

STEP 1B:   Mixing a batch of Terra-sorb gel with water (don’t forget the water or the gel will suck all the moisture out of the planting medium and nuts/seeds, and the chestnuts will die) 

STEP 1C:   Mixing a batch of Pro-mix, sterilized native soil, and hydrated Terra-sorb, then transferring the planting mix into 5-gallon buckets to carry to the planting sites UT Civil engineering student Jeff Gateley (L) and Sam McInturff (R) from the TN Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation
STEP 2A:   Rolling 12-inch wide x 18-inch long plastic sheets to create 18-inch long tree shelter tubes  (NOTE TO FILE:  Roll the plastic sheets so you have 18-inch long tubes and not 12-inch long tubes)

STEP 2B:   Slide the rolled 18-inch long plastic sheets into plastic sleeves to complete the Blue-X tree shelter assemblies

STEP 2C:   Use a hole-punch to create two adjacent holes at the top and two adjacent holes at the bottom of the plastic sleeves for attaching the Blue-X tree shelters to the wooden stakes using zip-ties (NOTE TO FILE: switch steps 2B and 2C because it is easier to punch the holes in the plastic sleeves before sliding in the rolled plastic sheets).

STEP 3A:   Chestnuts are packed in potting soil and stored in a refrigerator to retard germination until after planting and must be carefully separated from the potting mix.  Do not bend or break the radical growing from the nut.  (NOTE TO FILE:  Turn up the temperature on the refrigerator one degree because the potting mix and chestnuts were close to being frozen)

STEP 3B:   Counting out 50 chestnuts per zip-loc freezer bag for transportation to planting sites.  “One-two-three-four-five-six”…. “Count to yourself Tim, because you made me lose my place and now I have to start over.”

STEP 4:  Layout grid, drive wooden stake, and mark with flag corresponding to treatment type (Treatment No. 3 locations were marked with a yellow flag)

STEP 5:   Shovel out a shallow hole at the planting spot next to the wooden stake (NOTE TO FILE:  Excavate hole adjacent to stake or you won’t be able to attach the Blue-X tree shelter with zip-ties)

STEP 6:    Pour in 1½ cups of planting mix into the hole

STEP 7:   Place chestnut with flat side down.  In many cases, the chestnut was already starting to germinate and had a radical protruding from the nut.  Plant the nut on the flat side such that the radical is pointing down (the radical will become the root, so do not bend or break the radical).

STEP 8:   Pour in ½ cup of planting mix to cover the chestnut.  Keep your eye on the exact position of the nut while pouring and stick your finger into that spot to make a shallow indentation and denote its position to enable the tree shelter to be centered over it.
STEP 9:   Gently push the Blue-X tree shelter into the planting mix such that it is centered over the nut.  (NOTE TO FILE:  If the chestnut tree doesn’t grow up through the hollow part of the tube, Professor Jennifer Franklin, OSM field office director Earl Bandy, and National Coal CEO Dan Roling will not be happy, so let’s hope we did it right!) 

STEP 10:   Slide each zip-tie through the adjacent two holes in the tree shelter sleeve and attach to the wooden stake. 

STEP 11:  Place two 20-10-5 fertilizer pellets as shown and press them into the planting mix on opposite sides of the tree shelter tube (NOTE TO FILE:  Next time, remember to bring the fertilizer pellets with us because it is a long hike back up to the truck)

STEP 12A:  Stack rocks around the base of the tree shelter tube to secure it. Mark designated planting number on aluminum tag, remove yellow flag, stick bottom of flag through hole in aluminum tag (with writing side up), and stick flag back in the ground.

STEP 12B:    Some planting locations are more challenging than others and you may not be able to attach the bottom zip-tie, but we think this tree shelter is still stable even without the bottom zip-tie.

STEP 13:   Planting on A-side of site completed (left) with planting on B-side of site in progress (right).  (NOTE TO FILE:  Use white or yellow buckets in the future because coal miners do not like to be seen carrying hot-pink buckets).

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question:  Why don’t you level out the site next time so it won’t be so hard to get around?  Answer:  If the site is leveled with a dozer, then the compaction will make it tougher for the tree roots to penetrate.  Also, the irregular ground provides more surface area for water to infiltrate to the tree roots.  Over time, Mother Nature will level out the ground so it will be easier for folks to come evaluate how the trees are growing.  Hopefully, National Coal personnel will invite us back in future years so we can judge for ourselves how the trees are doing.
Question:  Did we plant pure American chestnuts or hybrids?  Answer:  We planted pure American chestnuts obtained from native trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The backcrossing and intercrossing to produce a blight-resistant hybrid that is 94% American and 6% Chinese chestnut is still on-going.  If the stars are in alignment, we may be able to plant hybrids next year. We planted pure American chestnuts this year to gain experience to hone our procedures and logistical skills so we can do a better job of planting the blight-resistant hybrids in the future.  We were somewhat disorganized at times, but that experience will enable us to do a better job of planning in the future.
Question:  Will the loose, well-graded rockfill be less stable on outslopes than compacted soil?  Answer:  No.  Loose, well-graded rockfill has higher shear strength and better drainage than compacted soil.  It’s why dumped rockfill is sometimes used along highways to stabilize steep, inaccessible soil slopes.  It's also why we used rockfill for stabilization at the base of creek banks in Coal Creek as described at http://www.coalcreekaml.com/HayesBankFinal.htm.
Question:  Will the loose, well-graded rockfill be subject to erosion?  Answer:  Observe the adjacent photo of a nearby mine site reclaimed by the FRA method after three years of tree growth and judge for yourself.  Runoff infiltrates to provide water for tree roots instead of causing erosion gullies.        Click on image to enlarge
Click on image:

Safety Director of National Coal stressing the importance of safety while we work

UT Geology student Katie Reynolds (R) and her sister Gracie providing some sunshine on a cold, rainy day

We knew that State Rep. William Baird (Center) was a good worker and he proved himself again today

Vic Davis (L) from OSM talking to
Frances Oates of the Clinton
Courier News


Hill Craddock (L) and Clint Neel (R) from the American Chestnut Foundation
Visit our web page from our day spent with
Elk Valley School planting American Chestnuts on
Zeb Mountain in celebration of Arbor Day 2008

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